Mask and Wig
The Mask and Wig Club, a private club in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, founded in 1889, is the oldest all-male collegiate musical comedy troupe in the United States. Created as an alternative to the existing theatrical and dramatic outlets at the University of Pennsylvania, Mask and Wig has presented comedy, music, and dancing to the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, and audiences across the country. Its credo is "Justice to the stage; credit to the University."
Mask and Wig Club of the University of Pennsylvania
Mask & Wig Clubhouse, (remodeled by Wilson Eyre, 1894).
|Location||310 South Quince Street,|
|Area||0.1 acres (0.040 ha)|
|Built||as St. Paul's Lutheran Church, 1834;|
remodeled into clubhouse 1894,
Murals: Maxfield Parrish
|Architectural style||Bavarian Style|
|NRHP reference #||79002323|
|Added to NRHP||November 20, 1979|
The club's performers, or "The Cast," put on two all-original shows each year in collaboration with the Club's own Stage Crew, Band, and Business Staff. Many Mask and Wig originals were made famous on the radio by mid 20th century luminaries. The well-known "Route 66" was composed by club member Bobby Troup and launched to the height of popularity by Frank Sinatra. Troup's song "Daddy" was written for a Mask and Wig show. Other Mask and Wig songs, such as "The Gypsy in My Soul," written by Clay Boland and Moe Jaffe, have been performed by the likes of Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, and Ella Fitzgerald. The first electrically recorded album ever released was Mask and Wig's "Joan of Arkansas," in April 1925.
The Mask and Wig Club of the University of Pennsylvania was first conceived of in 1888 by a small group of undergraduates, led by Clayton Fotterall McMichael, who were interested in the stage and desired something the University did not offer: a troupe that would produce original humorous theatrical pieces. In 1889, therefore, McMichael and the other original founders sent out a call for undergraduate men to audition for the group and participate in the creation and production of its first performance.
McMichael and his peers envisioned a group that involved dressing up in frocks and performing spoofs and parodies. Because colleges at the time were open only to young gentlemen, any production was limited to an all–male cast. These organizations naturally saw burlesque, which was quite popular in that era, as the perfect genre. The overblown characterizations, loose plotting, musical interludes, and parody of high art made the style perfect for a group of young, well-educated, amateur men, especially since the drag tradition came "built-in".
Founder McMichael combed the local bookstores for a story to produce and found it in Henry Byron's The Nymphs of the Lurleyburg. A substantially altered version, "Lurline", the Club's first production, hit the boards at the Chestnut Street Opera House on June 4, 1889, for one night only. Backed financially by the ladies of Philadelphia high society, the Club enjoyed great success in its early years. With increasingly reliable audience turnout and revenue from ticket sales, the runs were extended and the Club established a fine tradition among Philadelphia's theater-going society. Moreover, the club made a very strong impression on campus and it achieved great notoriety within its first year of existence.
In 1894 the Club purchased a property at 310 South Quince Street to serve as a gathering place and rehearsal hall, the Mask and Wig Clubhouse. The building had been erected by the first African-American Lutheran congregation in America as St. Paul's Lutheran Church in 1834, but had been sold in 1839 and converted into a coachhouse and stable, and later into a dissecting room for medical students. Prominent Philadelphia architect Wilson Eyre was commissioned to remodel the building and hired the young Maxfield Parrish, who would later become one of the greatest illustrators of the 20th century, to decorate the interior. The Grille Room was decorated with caricatures of members, a tradition that continues today, with the second century of members' caricatures continued upstairs at the entrance to the auditorium. Eyre expanded the clubhouse to its present size, 1901-1903.
The Club prospered throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The middle of this century was a heady time for the Club. Mask and Wig songs were the rage of the big band orchestras, radio shows, and solo acts of the day. The likes of Frank Sinatra, Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Rosemary Clooney, and Les Brown all covered Mask and Wig tunes. Between 1952 and 1958, the club appeared four times on The Ed Sullivan Show. The 1961 production, Wry on the Rocks, introduced a satirical revue format in a cabaret atmosphere. In 1992, with Myth America, Mask and Wig returned the student–written book musical to its stage, a practice which continues to this day. Important in the show's success are the traditional high standards in the caliber of performers and excellence of the material performed. The Club's primary purpose has always been and continues to be, "Justice to the stage; credit to the University."
Immediately after the end of World War II the Mask and Wig dormitory on the residence quadrangle was used to house a U.S. Army unit assigned to quickly learn the Japanese language. Upon the completion of the study, the soldiers were to be commissioned in the U.S. Army and serve in the Counterintelligence Corps (CIC) of the Army in Japan. This army unit had classes in the University in the Egyptian Antiquities room while being scrutinized by several mummies. Classes were also held in the Wharton School of Business. Jerry Epple, a member of the Army Specialized Training Program, says he remembers to this day the stone carving of a mask and wig near the dormitory entrance.
The Mask and Wig Club is unique in that it consists of both alumni and undergraduate members who have participated in the Annual Production. The Troupe consists of undergraduates who audition each fall and are selected into the various company sections (see below).
The Club produces the Annual Production and maintains and operates its own landmark theater at 310 South Quince Street (see below). The Clubhouse is a popular wedding and event venue in Philadelphia and was named "Best Party Venue" by Philadelphia Magazine in 2010.
The cast writes and performs material for productions. The band functions as a pit orchestra, playing original, self-arranged pieces for the Undergraduate Fall Show, and professionally arranged pieces for the Annual Production. The band also holds the headliner spot at the University of Pennsylvania's annual Spring Fling festival in the Quad. The crew builds elaborate, ornate, and completely original sets for Productions. The business staff is responsible for advertising and selling tickets for the Club's shows.
2019-2020 BOARD OF GOVERNORS
President: Louis Hornick III ’02
Vice-President: David E. Simon ’86
Secretary: Jonathan F. Kruse ’09
Treasurer: Brian J. Cargo ’07
Business Manager: Joshua F. Slatko ’00
Governors At Large
Sarfraz Ahmed '21
Rohan R. Bendre '21
Jeffrey J. Ricchetti '20
William C. Deo '21
Gabriel J. DeSantis '20, Undergraduate Chairman
Jonathan M. Diamond-Reivich '21
Timothy M. Donza ’02
Tamir H. Frank '20
Noah S. Goldstein ’14
Shane M. Goldstein '20, Undergraduate Secretary-Treasurer
Peter R. Kohn ’89
Stephen R. Kossuth '03
Kyle S. Kozloff ’90
Kyle J. Kuhns '18
Franc J. Marmero ’99
Matthew B. Mizrahi '06
Shephard T. Moore-Berg '12
Peter J. Schankowitz ’83
Historian: Robert C. F. Willson ’82
Undergraduate Chairman: Gabe DeSantis
Undergraduate Secretary-Treasurer: Shane Goldstein
Undergraduate Business Manager: Rohan Bendre
Undergraduate Stage Manager: Mason Elms
Undergradaute Band Leader: Malhar Singh
Undergraduate Cast Director: JJ Ricchetti
Free Show is the first Mask and Wig show of the academic year. The show is held during the first week of the academic year and is free of charge to all new freshmen. The cast performs classic bits that are tried and true. Free Show serves a few purposes: it introduces the new freshmen of the University of Pennsylvania to one of Penn's oldest institutions and hopes to recruit new members by displaying what membership in the group entails. In 2018, for the first time, the Free Show was performed in collaboration with Penn's all-female musical sketch comedy troupe, Bloomers.
Undergraduate Fall Show
Each fall, the undergraduates produce their own sketch comedy show that runs for one week in a theater on Penn's campus. The upperclassmen handle all aspects of production from acting direction to choreography to musical production. A notable highlight of the show is the Second Act Opener, which consists of a medley of songs from a famous musician or group, but with parodied lyrics that often follow a Penn-centered plot. Past parodied musicians include Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Billy Joel, The Beatles, Aerosmith, Disney, and Queen.
In 1999, Mask and Wig established an annual Intercollegiate Comedy Festival to showcase the talent of the nation's best collegiate sketch comedy troupes. The mission of the festival is not just to put on a hilarious show that cultivates new talent, but also to honor and showcase a well-known comedian. Each host does a stand-up routine for the audience and participates in sketches with Mask and Wig. Past college sketch troupes include:
- Princeton Triangle Club
- University of Maryland Sketchup
- Yale Fifth Humour
- Boston College Hello Shovelhead
- Cornell University Humor Us! Sketch Comedy
Past guest hosts include:
Annual Production "Spring Show"
The Annual Production, colloquially known as the "Spring Show", is the theatrical centerpiece of Mask and Wig. Performed at The Mask and Wig Clubhouse, the production is an original show that runs from late January to early April. While the format of the Spring Show has evolved over the years, the show currently runs as a full "book" musical comedy, complete with singing and tap dancing.
Unlike the Fall Show, the Annual Production is professionally composed, directed, and choreographed by some of the best talents in the industry. The script, however, is written by the Club's cast.
During spring break the troupe takes their show around the country as they road trip across the United States, usually performing in areas with a high Penn alumni concentration. The trip usually includes about four to six stops. In recent years the tour has taken Wig to cities like London, Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Chicago, and Toronto.
The tour is yet another one of the group's many traditions. In Mask and Wig's “heyday,” the group had its own train car that it would use to do a similar tour around the nation.
The Mask and Wig Band traditionally headlines the last day of Spring Fling performances, which was historically a Saturday, at the stage in the Lower Quad. In 2018 the festival was moved to Penn Park along with the Mask and Wig performance. They generally perform an hour-long set of covers of popular music. Members of the cast generally sing with the band, along with female vocalists from other Penn performing arts groups.
List of Annual Productions
- 1889 Lurline
- 1890 Ben Franklin, Jr.
- 1891 Miss Columbia
- 1892 Mr. and Mrs. Cleopatra
- 1893 The Yankee League
- 1894 King Arthur
- 1895 Kenilworth
- 1896 No Gentleman of France
- 1897 Very Little Red Riding Hood
- 1898 The House That Jack Built
- 1899 Captain Kidd, U.S.N.
- 1900 Mr. Aguinaldo of Manila
- 1901 Baa, Baa, Black Sheep
- 1902 Old King Cole
- 1903 Sir Robinson Crusoe
- 1904 Alice in Anotherland
- 1905 Mr. Hamlet of Denmark
- 1906 Shylock & Co., Bankers
- 1907 Herr Lohengrin
- 1908 Uncle Sam's Ditch
- 1909 Merely a Monarch
- 1910 The Desert of Mahomet
- 1911 Innocents
- 1912 Miss Helen of Troy
- 1913 Maid in Germany
- 1914 The Royal Arms
- 1915 Paradise Prison
- 1916 Whoa-Phoebe!
- 1917 Mr. Rip Van Winkle
- 1918 The Bridal Not
- 1919 Revue of Revues
- 1920 Don Quixote, Esq.
- 1921 Somebody's Lion
- 1922 Tell Tales
- 1923 Here's Howe
- 1924 That's That
- 1925 Joan of Arkansas
- 1926 A Sale and A Sailor
- 1927 Hoot Mon!
- 1928 Tarantella
- 1929 This Way Out!
- 1930 John Faust, Ph.D.
- 1931 East Lynne Gone West
- 1932 Ruff Neck
- 1933 Out of the Blues
- 1934 Easy Pickens
- 1935 Drums Fortissimo
- 1936 Red Rhumba
- 1936 This Mad Whirl
- 1937 Fifty – Fifty
- 1938 All Around the Town
- 1939 Great Guns
- 1940 High as a Kite
- 1941 Out of this World
- 1942 Paoli Local
- 1944 Red Points and Blue
- 1945 Hep to the Beat
- 1946 John Paul Jones
- 1946 Chris Crosses
- 1947 Juleo and Romiet
- 1948 Alaska Right Away
- 1949 Adamant Eve
- 1950 Count Me In!
- 1951 Doctor, Dear Doctor!
- 1952 Here's Howe!
- 1953 The Golden Fleece
- 1954 Tempest in a Teapot
- 1955 Vamp ‘Till Ready
- 1956 Ring Around Rosie
- 1957 Free For All?
- 1958 Off the Top
- 1959 Wright Side Up
- 1961 Wry on the Rocks
- 1962 All at Sea
- 1963 Where Do We Go From Here?
- 1964 Sorry, Charlie, Your Time is Up
- 1965 Listen, They’re Playing Our Song
- 1966 About Farce
- 1967 Quick, Before It's Written
- 1968 All's Fair
- 1969 The Devil to Pay
- 1970 Wrought Irony
- 1971 Who's Whom
- 1972 Now Listen Hear
- 1973 Take Ten
- 1974 Film Flam
- 1975 Mystery Loves Company
- 1976 Is It Yesterday Already?
- 1977 S!R!O!
- 1978 Pow! Zowie! Zap!
- 1979 You Bet Your Assets
- 1980 Daze a Vu
- 1981 Hire and Higher
- 1981 Between the Covers
- 1983 You Gotta Have Art
- 1984 Urban and Soda
- 1985 Irreverence of Things Past
- 1986 Happily Ever Laughter
- 1987 Eureka!? I Hardly Know Ya!
- 1988 Lurline, Again!
- 1989 Pun & Crime–ishment
- 1990 Healthy, Wealthy, and Wry
- 1991 Around the World in a Daze
- 1992 Myth America
- 1993 Westward Who?
- 1994 A Sworded Affair
- 1995 Thugs and Kisses
- 1996 Hit or Mrs.
- 1997 Mystery Repeats Itself
- 1998 Blasphemy? Blasphe-you!
- 1999 From Here to Maturity
- 2000 History in the Faking
- 2001 All's Fair in Love and Dwarfs
- 2002 Star-Spangled Banter
- 2003 Riot on the Set
- 2004 All's Hell That Ends Well
- 2005 Birth of a Notion
- 2006 Yahweh or the Highway
- 2007 Troy Story
- 2008 West Wing Story
- 2009 Oh, The Humanities!
- 2010 A Cheshire Catastrophe
- 2011 A Volcanic Corruption
- 2012 A Reptile Dysfunction
- 2013 Beautopia: A Face Odyssey
- 2014 Wishful Sinking
- 2015 A Comedy of Terrors
- 2016 Flight Club
- 2017 No Place Like Rome
- 2018 Juice Box Hero
- 2019 The Book of Mermen
List of Undergraduate Fall Shows
- 1971 No, But I Read the Cliff Notes
- 1972 You Ain't Nothin' But A Blue Suede Shoe
- 1973 Don't Throw Money
- 1974 Holding the Bag
- 1975 [Sic] Humor
- 1976 FurKing in the Jungle
- 1977 All You Can Eat
- 1978 Parodies Lost
- 1979 Fill 'Er Up
- 1981 Ring Job
- 1982 Beau Jest
- 1983 Wit Or Witout
- 1983 No Eggrolls For Me Thank You I've Just Been Vaccinated
- 1984 Shooting Stars: A Hollywood Murder Musical
- 1985 Eat Wit and Die
- 1986 What a Drag
- 1987 Your Mother
- 1988 Pippin or Hamlet Prince of Denmark
- 1989 Sex, Lies and Masking Tape
- 1990 Saddam & Gomorrah
- 1991 Male Chauvinist Wyg
- 1992 Debauchery, Debacle and Decandlestickmaker
- 1993 Ah Brutus, You Kill Me
- 1994 Carpe Stouffer: Seize the Tray
- 1995 Freudian Slip
- 1996 Something To Do Before You Get Mugged
- 1997 What Willis Was Talking About
- 1998 Bidets of Thunder
- 1999 The End Of The World As We Wrote It
- 2000 You Are the Wind Beneath My Fingers, Wings and Other Things
- 2001 Win Ben Stein's Wife and Kids
- 2002 Less Miserable
- 2003 Donkey Donuts
- 2004 Waiting for Gutmann
- 2005 Hogan's Gyros
- 2006 Singin' in Bahrain
- 2007 Phallus in Wonderland
- 2008 Oil Vey!
- 2009 Conquistadora the Explorer
- 2010 Ra and UnTut
- 2011 Mario Brothers, Where Art Thou?
- 2012 Tights, Camera, Action!
- 2013 A State of Confucian
- 2014 An Eye for an Island
- 2015 No Country for Old Penn
- 2016 Magic Mike & Ike
- 2017 I Am What I Amazon
- 2018 Apollo 13 Going on 30
- 2019 Frights of the Round Table
Working in his studio just a few blocks away at Thirteenth and Walnut Streets, Maxfield Parrish received one of his first commissions in 1894 from Mask and Wig. This first job came as he was finishing his studies at the Pennsylvania Academy; it was for decoration of the stage proscenium and ticket window, illustration of a number of caricatures on the wall of the Grille Room, and most notably the Old King Cole mural. This was the start of his professional career; shortly after seeing the mural, the editor of “Harper's” Magazine invited Parrish to do some of their covers for which he became famous. He would continue working for the Club to finish a total of 35 caricatures and illustrate the earliest program covers.
Wilson Eyre was older and more established than Parrish when he began working on the Clubhouse, and was good friends with Parrish's father, Stephen. Eyre was the architect in charge of renovating the Club's new home and transforming it from a stable into a “Bavarian” themed Clubhouse. His first remodel in 1894 transformed the space from the stable by adding an entry hall with stairs, designing and decorating the Grille Room, and turning the second floor into a theater. Eyre designed most of the furniture in the Grille Room; three of the original tables still exist and will be returned to the Clubhouse upon its reopening. Eyre also oversaw the second major change. The building was enlarged in 1903 by adding 10 feet to the front creating the façade that still exists there today. Eyre's original drawing of the front design, created in 1902, is shown to the right. Eyre's design has endured for over a century with few changes aside from the ongoing addition of paneling for caricatures in the Grille Room and Theater. Though Eyre's career included several projects like the Clubhouse, he is best known for his design of the University of Pennsylvania’s Museum.
Immediately following the close of the 2007 Spring show, the clubhouse began to undergo an extensive renovation. In addition to bringing the building up to modern code, the club also installed an elevator and central air conditioning unit. The construction, originally projected to be complete in time for a normal Spring show run, experienced a number of delays and setbacks. On the morning of March 15, 2008, a fire broke out in the attic of the clubhouse, setting back the completion date indefinitely. While nothing of historical significance was critically damaged, the 2008 Spring show, "West Wing Story", could not go on in the club's signature theater.
Luckily, the club had a contingency plan in case of such an emergency and was able to put on their show. "West Wing Story" played for two weekends in April 2008 at the Prince Music Theater in downtown Philadelphia, marking the first annual production to be performed at a venue other than the clubhouse since 1960. The generosity of Mask and Wig's Graduate Club made it financially possible to perform in a professional theater. With renovations still behind schedule in 2009, the annual production "Oh, the Humanities!" was also performed at the Prince Music Theater for three weekends, selling a record number of tickets due to the large theater capacity.
The clubhouse renovation was completed in the fall of 2009, allowing the club to once again return to its own stage for the 2010 Annual Production, "A Cheshire Catastrophe".
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